Berlin — Members of Germany's far-right populist political party have been chastised by the mayor of Nuremberg for "openly racist" remarks about a German girl of Indian descent being chosen as the city's ceremonial "Christ child" for this year's Christmas pageantry.
Benigna Munsi, 17, will give a speech at the opening ceremony of the annual Christmas market. Her role as ambassador of the famous market has a charitable element which includes visits to retirement homes, hospitals and schools.
"Nuremberg has a new Christ child," noted a comment by a local district branch of the AfD party on its Facebook page. "One day, we're going to go the way of the Indians," the post added, in an apparent reference to the dramatic reduction in the Native American population in the early days of the United States.
Another AfD member commented that the girl's "foreign" nose was a "slap in the face to friends of tradition." Both posts were removed from Facebook.
Nuremberg's mayor Ulrich Maly condemned the comments which he said had an "openly racist connotation."
"You would laugh about it if you didn't know these guys are serious, but you could cry about this level of misanthropy," Maly said.
Munsi is the city's first non-white "Christ Child." The role has long been given to a white, Nuremburg-born, blonde girl, who is adorned with a crown and a golden robe for the ceremonies. Munsi was born in Nuremberg to an Indian father and a German mother.
In choosing her, the City Council's jury said it was impressed by Munsi's "fresh, warm, empathetic and easy-going manner."
Despite the pair of racist remarks, Munsi has received an outpouring of support. During a press conference on Sunday with the mayor and her parents, she said she was "surprised by the positive responses."
Maly echoed her opinion and said he was impressed by the amount of "human dignity" expressed after the racist backlash from the AfD members.
The number of xenophobic and anti-Semitic attacks committed by supporters of far-right groups in Germany has risen by 20%.
After thein the east German city of Halle, established political parties accused the AfD of creating a climate in which people with racist tendencies have felt emboldened, and more willing to express their views.